I Need Your Help! And a Happy 2nd Anniversary 🇲🇦
Aug 01, 2023
I hope you’re doing well! It is Saturday afternoon and as I received a beautiful video from our wonderful staff at La Maison de Tanger, celebrating our 2nd year anniversary as owners of this wonderful boutique hotel, I thought it could be a great opportunity for me to share some of its story with you today! I’m listening to Nick Drake’s Five Leaves Left as I’m writing this down. It’s been such an intense week in the music world following the loss of Sinéad O'Connor, and thinking about this – quite a lot – led me to listen to great artists which sadly left us way too soon…
The first time I heard Alex mention a strong desire to step foot in Tangier was back in 2016! We had just finalized what felt like a never ending recording process for Your Favorite Enemies’ album Tokyo Sessions and Alex was coming back from a week out in Tangier, trying to regain some sense of normality after spending a few months working day and night in the studio. Alex invited me for lunch at a downtown restaurant as he wanted to share with me his new ideas around the writing of a new album…!
“A new album?!?!” I said with an eyebrow raised as high as it possibly can be raised, and followed with “Haven’t we just finished recording one?!” In my mind, it sounded more like “Here we go again, typical Alex coming back from a week of thinking and supposedly resting.” The cool thing about being a DIY artist is that once you’re finished with recording, you have to quickly switch hats and start thinking about releasing the album and making sure you have an available van to go on tour with!
Later on at the restaurant, I remember going “Wait, what?!?! Morocco?” And sitting right in front of me was an over-the-top-beyond-excited Alex for whom nothing could convince him otherwise. He kept saying “We have to travel to Tangier, the band together, for a few weeks, discovering a completely new culture, vibes, smells, sounds, colors, dust, and so on. Imagine… Tangier was home to the Beat Generation, The Rolling Stones, Patti Smith, Paul Bowles, Matisse, down to Delacroix...! So many artists have stepped into this mythical and unique city located in the most exciting part of the world, where Europe and Africa literally face each other! How can this not be exciting, motivating, exhilarating?! “Our album is coming out later this summer, let’s leave in a few days, and let’s get inspired for our next project right now! There’s no time to waste...!”
Well guess what?! 5 days later, we landed in Casablanca for a two-week road trip to Tangier, Chefchaouen, Fes, Marrakech, the Sahara, and Essaouira…! And once again, Alex was right: this trip changed our lives, and everyone around us ever since – and forever!
After Alex’s father sadly passed away, and Alex went back to Tangier on his own for what was supposed to be a few weeks, which finally became several months, and then a year..! Alex then invited us all to Tangier to see and dig if something still remained between us, and if nothing, maybe a spark could light up a fire, some kind of a do-or-die in Tangier, which finally gave birth to what became his first album, Windows in the Sky! It was during those several months of working in Tangier, where Alex and I would sit on our house studio terrace, looking at the city, looking at the sea, that I asked him bluntly “Would you live here?” A quick “yes” came out of his mouth, which wasn’t a surprise to me at all!
One thing you might not know about Alex is that, beside writing incredible lyrics and music, one of his other passions is to welcome people. Alex is the kind of guy that will always create all kinds of events at his home (or elsewhere), inviting people with a very specific dress code – like very specific, which can be between wearing a tuxedo, or being dressed like it was 1985, or 1999, or a clown party, or all in yellow, or brown or a huge classic: come dressed as if you were the king of France! (Don’t ask for pictures..!)
Everything will start with an official letter, an official invitation, and once you arrive at his home for the event, it makes Disneyland and Las Vegas look like listening to a dart tournament on the radio. Alex will welcome you like you were Neil Armstrong coming back from the moon, in a Great Gatsby grand fashion. He’s a welcoming master, he likes it, and he’s like a kid weeks prior to the event. So, after spending more than a year in a boutique hotel in Tangier, he started telling me how much he’d love to own a place like this! I don’t know if you ever watched the Inception movie, but when Alex has an idea that is deeply rooted into his heart and mind, like the Morocco trip prior to the album release, don’t even try to visit him while he sleeps to try and change his mind, since chances of this succeeding are slim to none!
It was so beautiful and inspiring to hear him poetically describe how things were working in Tangier, it almost sounded like Shakespeare-inspired. We ended up spending the entire evening talking up there, as it was the first time I was hearing Alex talk about something else than art with so much passion and depth. The connection with the people, the vibe, the soul, the inspiration, the act of welcoming strangers to then seeing them leaving as friends, to have conversations, to share personal journeys and so on...! I was sold! We had to own a place of our own! For my part, before being in the band, I was a French chef. I studied culinary art, and always dreamed of something like that but had never been really vocal about it, so he was kinda preaching to the choir!
Alex really actively started to look for a place in Tangier every following day of that evening…! This lasted until very early in 2021, where, through friends of friends, we heard about this wonderful small oasis in the heart of the city called La Maison de Tanger. It was on this day, July 29, in 2021, that Alex and I made a toast in this beautiful garden saying: “To the limitless boundaries of our friendship!” This is what I wanted to celebrate with you today, those crazy ideas, those things that seem impossible, far-fetched, unreachable, close to feeling stupid when you start thinking about it, and dreaming about it..!
As Alex wrote two years ago:
If some could see this new endeavor as some sort of full circle, I foresee that adventure as a fabulous opportunity to offer an unbelievably soulful shelter to anyone looking for a place to rest, to mourn, to reimagine their lives, to design or redesign their personal journey, as much as embrace life, love, friendship and whatever we might want to define our upcoming seasons with. And who knows, we may have the exhilarating happiness to witness a new generation of writers, painters, musicians, and visionaries who may be inspired by the generosity of the city and impacted by the people who make Tangier one of the most beautifully unique places in the world, always-evolving.
I have faith in the city’s human and cultural entity, where everyone is someone, where every visitor is invited to be an everlasting friend, no matter who we were when we initially drifted at its feet, always welcome to return regardless of who we may have become after our passage in its midst. All transformed, if only a little, by its fluid essence. At least that’s what Tangier is for me, and for so many others as well: a timeless yet eternal city of refuge that flows in its own rhythm… Free.
Life is so rich! Happy anniversary!
I NEED YOUR HELP
As I shared with you a few weeks ago during a video, Alex and I will be starting a new way of sharing with you all pretty soon. As you’re reading this letter, I’ll be down in Virginia with Alex as I haven’t seen him in a while, and would like to get started with that.
I would like for you to send me a few questions you might have for Alex! You simply have to reply to this email, and I’ll gather those and make sure they’ll all be answered – unless you’re asking about his favorite color… I think it’s green!
Can’t wait to read you! Let’s be great to one another!
Your Host and Friend,